If you want to see an unusual sight then it would be worth your while paying a visit to the National Gardens Exhibition and Visitor Centre in the village of Kilquade, a short distance from Greystones. There is a very impressive pond in the garden centre there which both houses and imprisons a large number of North American terrapins, all Yellow-eared Sliders. They have been there for a few years.
The Yellow-eared Sliders in this pond are all unwanted pets, but it is worth noting that some people dumped their pet terrapins in rivers, lakes and ponds around Dublin in the wake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze, where some are reportedly thriving, and it is only a matter of time before they arrive in Wicklow, if they are not already here.
Terrapins are not the gentle vegetarians that the dry-land dwelling tortoises are, being active predators of fish, water birds and even small mammals. They grow to the diameter of dinner-plates and weigh the same as a building brick, so these guys are powerful creatures. Now, it has been assumed they cannot breed in the wild because sustained warm temperatures are required over a period of weeks to keep the eggs alive. But we are enjoying just such sustained temperatures right now, and I have spoken to one or two naturalists who have told me there is some evidence these terrapins have successfully reproduced in the wild already.
The really interesting thing is that people who look at this pond often don’t even notice the terrapins at first as they are like statuettes as they bask in the sun, so it’s worth checking out this escape-proof pond to familiarise yourself and train your eye. They don’t look as obvious when you’re there standing in front of them as they do in this photo.